Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Canberra’s Leading
Relationship Lawyers

No bike helmet idea a can of worms for Government

By Greg Cornwell 23 February 2016 26

Cycling without a helmet

The Road Safety Action Plan 2016-2020 among other of its 39 recommendations asks that risks and any potential benefits be investigated of allowing people to ride bicycles without a helmet in low speed environments.

Apart from allowing the breeze to ruffle your helmetless hair – but only in selected areas – the other benefit is the suggestion more people might take up riding bicycles if the helmet rule was relaxed.

Several issues arise from the recommendation and in no particular order: a rider to enjoy the freedom has to reach a free zone so a helmet still is a travel necessity. Will bareheaded cyclists be restricted to the zones by our already overburdened police force? Will the increase in people cycling and apparently hitherto deterred in affluent Canberra by the cost of a helmet really outweigh the risks of fatalities and injuries? Is it wise to have rules for cycling in different areas? Are children to be exempt? And apart from the ANU, parks are identified as low speed environments so do we differentiate with signs between paths and bike paths?

A 2013 NSW study quoted in the Plan said helmets reduced head injuries by 74 percent while 23 percent of people indicated they would ride more (not take up cycling) if helmets were not mandatory.

The cycling lobby in Canberra is politically active, sometimes sanctimonious and doubtless keen to increase its influence. However it needs to be remembered hilly ACT is not The Netherlands and people need cars here so commonsense is called for in addressing transport and environment requirements.

If the Plan’s intentions are realised, including a 10 percent cycling increase resulting in significant less traffic congestion, as reported from further interstate studies, it follows bicycles will become more numerous. Should they like people, like motor vehicles, then be subject to regulations?

To date controls on cyclists have been resisted because of health and environmental benefits. Nevertheless complaints do occur principally from accidents with walkers and the increasing cost to taxpayers of bike paths.

Registration of bicycles is often called for but with the number already in the community and the cost of administrating the scheme is not worthwhile. The better idea useful for an accident is cyclists be required to carry an ID, no great burden in these days of security.

Of course the argument no protection to encourage greater participation raises the question what’s next: motorcycles, ice hockey…?

The government has a lot of thinking to do.

Photo: iStock


What’s Your opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
26 Responses to
No bike helmet idea a can of worms for Government
Filter
Showing only Website comments
Order
Newest to Oldest
Oldest to Newest
farq 10:44 pm 24 Feb 16

gooterz said :

Much like light rail is the solution to the problem we haven’t had yet. The government will have to make some more laws making that part of town more dense. (I think they’re rather dense enough).

Lol no, Light rail is simple about making money for our governments developer mates while ratepayers foot the bill. The only dense people are those who still vote Labor.

Tenpoints 8:37 pm 24 Feb 16

gooterz said :

It would be crazy when we bring in registration for bicycles. However its the only way the bicycle speed cameras will work.

Maybe they can also have a helmet cam?

By gum I think this government has it backwards.
The civic cycle loop was built because there are so many cyclists out there. So why only a few months later do we have to bring in a law to encourage more people to cycle? Did we over estimate the number of cyclists?

It seems our beloved leaders love us so much that they spend all day looking for solutions to us. However we’re rather slow at bringing the problems to go with them.

Much like light rail is the solution to the problem we haven’t had yet. The government will have to make some more laws making that part of town more dense. (I think they’re rather dense enough).

I think the problem is too many drivers rather than not enough cyclists. And you pay how much for parking?

gooterz 6:35 pm 24 Feb 16

It would be crazy when we bring in registration for bicycles. However its the only way the bicycle speed cameras will work.

Maybe they can also have a helmet cam?

By gum I think this government has it backwards.
The civic cycle loop was built because there are so many cyclists out there. So why only a few months later do we have to bring in a law to encourage more people to cycle? Did we over estimate the number of cyclists?

It seems our beloved leaders love us so much that they spend all day looking for solutions to us. However we’re rather slow at bringing the problems to go with them.

Much like light rail is the solution to the problem we haven’t had yet. The government will have to make some more laws making that part of town more dense. (I think they’re rather dense enough).

OpenYourMind 6:05 pm 24 Feb 16

Here’s what its like in the Netherlands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-AbPav5E5M

I suggest doing a little googling on dutch helmet laws statistics injuries

Those for helmet laws may be a little surprised.

Nilrem 2:07 pm 24 Feb 16

John Hargreaves said :

It is about time that the Government started questioning the science behind the compulsion to wear bike helmets.

It is true that the states brought in the laws in response to an inadequately argued demand from the feds to do so. Not to do so was to risk road funding.

It is true also, that helmets prevent soft tissue injuries such as gravel rash, broken noses and perhaps even the odd hair line fracture.

There is no clinical evidence that helmets have prevented major head trauma.

Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that helmets can contribute to Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) which is the rotation of the head due to the increased mass of that head when it strikes the road.

Unlike motor bike helmets which are smooth and this smoothness mitigates the rotational opportunity f the head making contact a glancing one, bike helmets have gripping surfaces which contributes to DAI.

The result of DAI is the potential for quadriplegia and possible death. Indeed, a cyclist in Wanniassa died from DAI after falling off his bike. This was a coroner’s finding.

The standards applicable to bike helmets have been challenged and ignored. It is about time that this was remedied.

a Senate Sub Committee chaired by Senator Leyonhjelm (apologies for the spelling) heard scientific evidence at its hearing in Melbourne recently, advocating for the removal of the compulsion to wear the helmets. The evidence in support of the helmets law was from the medical profession with no empirical evidence – only the emotive “it will save kids’ lives” argument.

I’m pleased to see that baby steps are being taken to bring this issue to reality but am annoyed that it will take until mid next year before the actual law has any chance of being changed.

While I take your point about DAI, I shall continue to wear a helmet. One day it may be the only thing between my skull/brain and a bull bar, or the road. I’ll take a chance with DAI.

Tenpoints 12:49 pm 24 Feb 16

We have anecdotes of course, like my experience last year where a helmet took enough of the impact of a 28km/h collision with a concrete edge to leave me only a split eyebrow and temporary nerve damage in my forehead.
Collision energy increases exponentially with velocity. And when we’re talking about “low speed areas” like Garema place or Union Court, you’re mostly going to be rolling along at a fairly sedate speed (<15km/h) due to the multitude of people walking around. Yes, you might have a collision, but it’s not likely going to be one where you get shipped off unconscious in an ambulance.
I would think that if you’re riding at a low speed, there’s almost no use case for a bicycle helmet, or if the research is wrong and they’re actually super effective, why don’t we mandate people to wear a helmet while crossing the road, jogging, climbing a ladder, taking a shower and other everyday activities which involve a level of risk to the head. Think about that before you discount the inconvenience of having to carry a helmet with you at all day (or worrying about it getting nicked from the bike).
So yes, helmets are questionably effective anyway but beside that point cycling is low risk at low speeds and as such it is incongruent to require cyclists to wear helmets while similarly risky and regularly performed activities do not. And yes, carrying a helmet is a hassle which I think most people would agree when they think about the logistics of it. And so by that line of thought I assert that, Mandatory Helmet Laws are undermining the practical use case of cycling, which is part of the reason we have mostly recreational/fitness cycling here as opposed to in Europe where most people use bikes primarily for transportation and convenience over fun and fitness.

John Moulis 12:32 pm 24 Feb 16

Thanks John H for reminding us that the compulsory helmets laws came in as a result of blackmail by the then federal government. The states were threatened with savage cutbacks in federal funding for roads unless they brought in compulsory cycle helmet laws, so all the state and territory governments had little choice but to cave in. There is a bright spot, however. Because the laws are state-based – not federal – each state can unilaterally scrap the laws if they wish. The NT has already partly done so, the precedent has been set, so if the ACT follows suit it would not be a case of the ACT being the only one in step. The compulsory cycle helmets laws are largely a dead letter anyway – rarely if ever enforced, openly flouted and with no evidence at all that they have contributed to the safety of bike riders. I am reminded of the slogan adopted by motorcyclists when compulsory helmet laws came in – Let those who ride decide.

Maya123 11:51 am 24 Feb 16

pink little birdie said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

This entire argument for no helmets in low speed built up areas is seriously flawed. Wouldn’t most injuries on bicycles be caused by involvement with a vehicle? What areas have the highest concentration of cars and bicycles? You guessed it, the city. So where cyclists are by themselves, with little risk of collision [bike paths] they must wear helmets, but when they are in busy traffic areas like the ANU precinct, shopping complexes etc, they can get away without one? It just seems totally backward to me.

My only bike accident was on the bike path near Lake Ginninderra. This was despite riding on Ginninderra drive 2 -3 times a week for 3 years.
To be fair this law won’t effect me as I will continue to wear a helmet.

My only (bad) accident was on a quiet suburban street. A magpie stepped out in front of me. I braked and my brakes jammed up and over the handlebars I went. I was very sore and bruised. I’m not sure my helmet made a difference one way or another with that accident, but part of the bike struck me on the face, giving me a black eye (my one and only). Then I learnt what people had meant when they said a black eye runs.

pink little birdie 10:43 am 24 Feb 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

This entire argument for no helmets in low speed built up areas is seriously flawed. Wouldn’t most injuries on bicycles be caused by involvement with a vehicle? What areas have the highest concentration of cars and bicycles? You guessed it, the city. So where cyclists are by themselves, with little risk of collision [bike paths] they must wear helmets, but when they are in busy traffic areas like the ANU precinct, shopping complexes etc, they can get away without one? It just seems totally backward to me.

My only bike accident was on the bike path near Lake Ginninderra. This was despite riding on Ginninderra drive 2 -3 times a week for 3 years.
To be fair this law won’t effect me as I will continue to wear a helmet.

John Hargreaves 10:30 am 24 Feb 16

It is about time that the Government started questioning the science behind the compulsion to wear bike helmets.

It is true that the states brought in the laws in response to an inadequately argued demand from the feds to do so. Not to do so was to risk road funding.

It is true also, that helmets prevent soft tissue injuries such as gravel rash, broken noses and perhaps even the odd hair line fracture.

There is no clinical evidence that helmets have prevented major head trauma.

Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that helmets can contribute to Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) which is the rotation of the head due to the increased mass of that head when it strikes the road.

Unlike motor bike helmets which are smooth and this smoothness mitigates the rotational opportunity f the head making contact a glancing one, bike helmets have gripping surfaces which contributes to DAI.

The result of DAI is the potential for quadriplegia and possible death. Indeed, a cyclist in Wanniassa died from DAI after falling off his bike. This was a coroner’s finding.

The standards applicable to bike helmets have been challenged and ignored. It is about time that this was remedied.

a Senate Sub Committee chaired by Senator Leyonhjelm (apologies for the spelling) heard scientific evidence at its hearing in Melbourne recently, advocating for the removal of the compulsion to wear the helmets. The evidence in support of the helmets law was from the medical profession with no empirical evidence – only the emotive “it will save kids’ lives” argument.

I’m pleased to see that baby steps are being taken to bring this issue to reality but am annoyed that it will take until mid next year before the actual law has any chance of being changed.

Ezy 8:14 am 24 Feb 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

This entire argument for no helmets in low speed built up areas is seriously flawed. Wouldn’t most injuries on bicycles be caused by involvement with a vehicle? What areas have the highest concentration of cars and bicycles? You guessed it, the city. So where cyclists are by themselves, with little risk of collision [bike paths] they must wear helmets, but when they are in busy traffic areas like the ANU precinct, shopping complexes etc, they can get away without one? It just seems totally backward to me.

All of the injuries I have had via bike have always involved… me. This is either due to a lax of concentration on a trail or riding in wet conditions. And almost always in front of pretty girls.

I really don’t like this ruling at all. It adds more fuel to the fire of everyone vs cyclists. The solution is simple, wear a helmet when you ride your bike. It is common sense.

wildturkeycanoe 6:51 am 24 Feb 16

This entire argument for no helmets in low speed built up areas is seriously flawed. Wouldn’t most injuries on bicycles be caused by involvement with a vehicle? What areas have the highest concentration of cars and bicycles? You guessed it, the city. So where cyclists are by themselves, with little risk of collision [bike paths] they must wear helmets, but when they are in busy traffic areas like the ANU precinct, shopping complexes etc, they can get away without one? It just seems totally backward to me.

Tenpoints 7:41 pm 23 Feb 16

Although on my first point, drilling down that data includes no seat belt and no airbag accidents. Passenger, side and front airbags would presumably mitigate traumatic brain injury, for people who can afford cars which have them.

Tenpoints 7:24 pm 23 Feb 16

On the point of helmet laws: One comparison is the statistically huge amount of head injuries caused to occupants of motor vehicles in collisions. Perhaps if we mandated helmets in cars then less people would drive, thereby reducing traffic congestion and increasing safety.
Helmets are worn in motor vehicles in the event of racing. If one is riding at fast speeds, I.e faster than a steady run, perhaps that is a suitable bar to set between helmet/no helmet.
Of course in NSW the fines for not wearing a helmet are about to get a lot steeper -$319. You can probably guess how that’s going to affect cycling participation. It remains to be seen how virulently they’ll enforce it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a blitz or three in the next few months.
Plus mandatory ID of course. Now if you ask me about slippery slopes, this is the one to watch.

justin heywood 6:28 pm 23 Feb 16

The claimed ‘plus’ for allowing helmet-less riding is that more people would ride if they didn’t have to wear a helmet, a claim based on a survey where 22% of people said they would ride more often if they didn’t have to wear a hemet.

So…, people have the bike and the will to ride it; it’s just those darn pesky helmets that are holding them back from getting out there. Right. I’d jog every morning too if those darn mattresses weren’t so comfortable.

Call me cynical, but I suspect there is an element of the cycling lobby that wants the law changed, because they want the right to not wear helmets, against almost all the evidence of their contribution to safety.
All the rest is just bumpf.

dungfungus 5:41 pm 23 Feb 16

The case for the riderless bike strengthens.

John Moulis 4:33 pm 23 Feb 16

It’s not a can of worms. If you ride on the road you wear a helmet. If you ride on a cycle path or footpath you don’t wear a helmet. Simple. If I recall correctly, the compulsory helmets law (along with P plates in the ACT) was part of a deal the then government made with rogue senators to get national road rules through the Senate around 20 years ago.

Rollersk8r 1:31 pm 23 Feb 16

Everyone knows bike helmet laws are not strictly enforced. If you are that strongly against wearing a helmet you can get away with it. Yes, NSW just increased fines and now require cyclists to carry ID – but I’d suggest it’s no more of an enforcement priority over the border.

Personally, I think it’s common sense to wear a helmet, carry ID and have insurance. But that’s mainly because I ride every day. I can see the argument of people not bothered to wear a helmet to ride down to the park twice a year. However, these rare recreational trips won’t take any cars off the road.

madelini 11:47 am 23 Feb 16

I disagree with the slippery slope argument (to quote the article “Of course the argument no protection to encourage greater participation raises the question what’s next: motorcycles, ice hockey…?”

This policy has a good base because it trusts adults to weigh up the options and make rational decisions. The government should not need to hold our hands when we choose to ride our bikes. Places like university campuses should be free of the helmet law – the majority of people who ride around campus either live on-site or nearby. It’s difficult to get up to high speeds going between buildings.

Having zones where a helmet is not required does not mean anything aside from providing some people with more freedoms. There is a clear distinction between riding a motorbike and riding a bicycle; the loosening of pushbike helmet laws would have no effect whatsoever on motorbike laws. That argument was also used by people opposing gay marriage, who believed that it would set a precedent for people marrying their pets. Don’t insult our intelligence by drawing that comparison.

Maya123 11:46 am 23 Feb 16

Brisal said :

Instead of a no-helmet rule, how about adding this brilliant device to the list of approved head protection devices:

http://www.hovding.com/

Expensive, yes, but have you seen the price of decent helmets these days?

That would be like wearing a plastic scarf on a summer’s day. Okay for winter, but on a 38C day…I don’t think so!

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2019 Region Group Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
the-riotact.com | aboutregional.com.au | b2bmagazine.com.au | thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site